Update: Activists dispute police narrative that led to the arrest of Bloomington, Indiana resident; Activists say woman was attending music festival a mile away from the “cop city” vandalism before being charged with domestic terrorism

Several local activists told Bloomingtonian the police narrative that led to the arrest of Maggie Gates, 25, of Bloomington, Indiana, during a music festival Sunday in Atlanta Georgia on charges of Domestic terrorism isn’t accurate.

Some activists in video links sent to the Bloomingtonian are calling actions of the police in Georgia political repression.

According to several sources, the people arrested were not part of the protest that led to the burning of equipment at the future site of a sprawling police and firefighter training facility being constructed in Atlanta, Georgia. But attending the South River Music Festival when the separate action against “Cop City” began. The training facility is being built in the South River Forest, a large area of green space, in Atlanta some distance from the location of the South River Music Festival, taking place at RC Field.

The Bloomingtonian has not seen the probable cause affidavit for the charges against Gates.

But police are accusing the festival attendees of using the festival to create a cover for the vandalism. The police, in a press release, are calling the activists, “agitators” which was historically a term used against civil rights protesters in the 1960s, and has for decades been used against union labor activists to discredit them.

Police released videos of construction equipment being destroyed.

There has been a nationwide movement against what protesters are calling, “Cop City.” And some activists have been occupying the land where the facility is to be built. Police in January shot one activist, Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán, 13 times, which led to more protests. The death gave the movement international attention in the media. Five others were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism in December.

Activists have expressed concern that the construction of the police facility will further militarize the police against the American people.

On Sunday, during the concert that was part of a planned week of events planned by activists, the Atlanta Community Press Collective is saying this is what actually occurred:

“After a day and a half of jubilant celebration at the South River Music Festival, the atmosphere suddenly shifted. The sound of roughly 30 police cruisers cut through Suede Cassidy’s jazz set. Police darted into the RC Field, some with guns drawn, and indiscriminately began to attack, tase, and arrest music festival attendees. One attendee received death threats from intruding officers. Another was beaten, concussed, and rushed to Grady Hospital. Another reported that an officer drew his side arm and fired over their head as they chased them into the woods. As the police pushed into the forest along the bike path, they were met with flying soup cans and fireworks, which kept them at bay.”

Here is a link to the full narrative:

According to the narrative, police showed up in force, even brought a Bearcat armored vehicle, and blocked the exits so the festival goers could not leave the site. The day before had marked the beginning of a week-long “action to stop cop city” according to the Atlanta Community Press Collective.

Gates, 25, of Bloomington, was among several dozen people at the concert who were rounded up by police and charged with domestic terrorism. The activists no one who vandalized equipment in a separate action was detained. The concert began Saturday, March 4, 2023, and continued at noon Sunday, according to the Atlanta Community Press Collective. By 4 p.m. Sunday, March 5, 2023, there were 1000 people attending the free concert.

“Around 6:30, the police arrived. 35 people in total were handcuffed and detained. A festival attendee who witnessed some of the arrests confirmed that police then separated local residents from those with out-of-state IDs and released all but two of those from Georgia. The remaining 22 were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism,” Atlanta Community Press Collective.

Police then posted the mugshots of those arrested, along with a press release, and videos of the action activists are saying did not occur at the concert site.

Here is what the Atlanta police released:

“Post Date:03/05/2023 11:13 PM

On March 5, 2023, a group of violent agitators used the cover of a peaceful protest of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to conduct a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers. They changed into black clothing and entered the construction area and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers.

The agitators destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment by fire and vandalism. Multiple law enforcement agencies deployed to the area and detained several people committing illegal activity. 35 agitators have been detained so far.

The illegal actions of the agitators could have resulted in bodily harm. Officers exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement to conduct arrests.

With protests planned for the coming days, the Atlanta Police Department, in collaboration with law enforcement partners, have a multi-layered strategy that includes reaction and arrest.”

Then after this, the Atlanta Police demanded that protests stay peaceful this week.

However, the Atlanta Community Press Collective had this response to the police, “The indiscriminate brutalization and arrest of festival goers suggests that law enforcement agencies will go to great lengths to paint the movement to Stop Cop City and Defend the Atlanta Forest as a criminal organization. It is, in fact, a broad decentralized movement with no ideological or organizational unity, only a shared goal. They believe that the movement is made up of bad actors who betray otherwise peaceful protestors, but the movement is not committed to any particular tactic, instead accepting the diversity of approaches to stop the project. The police claim that the movement is not made up of any Atlantans, while AUC students, local clergy & faith leaders, small businesses, and dozens of locally famous artists and musicians organize themselves within the movement. The police’s false narrative and heavy handed approach to dealing with opposition to the Cop City project is slowly starting to enclose them in. As the movement grows and city and state officials refuse to see the reality of what they are dealing with, their own authority is being brought into question. If they are not careful, the stakes of the movement will soon exceed the bounds of the forest and Cop City. In fact, that process may already have begun.”

After the labor movements of the 1930s, and the anti-war, and civil rights movements of the 1960s, when many activist leaders were killed or imprisoned, the American left learned that having leaders was a disadvantage, and since then, movements on the left have often been leaderless. Movements such as Antifa, which means anti-fascist, or the anti-globalization protests of the 1990s, are not organizations, but ideas, and anybody can claim to be Antifa or against the IMF or World Bank, because it’s not an organization but a philosophy. Meanwhile, law enforcement often treats such ideas as organizations, with leaders, when neither is true. Even if one group or individual is arrested, other autonomous groups or individuals still exist.

However, according to activists, when police were unable to find suspects who vandalized the equipment a mile away at “Cop City,” they arrested people nearby. Activists said they believe this action was taken to scare others into giving up.

Meanwhile, the police, using RICO laws, are claiming anybody they arrested at the concert is a “domestic terrorist.”

“Over the past year, police spokespeople and Governor Kemp have repeated talking points which characterize Stop Cop City protesters as “terrorists” who “come from other states”. In court filings, prosecutors have taken the position that arrested protesters are guilty based on their “cooperation with Defend the Atlanta Forest” which they claim to be “a domestic violent extremist organization,” according to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund.

Here is the website link for Defend the Atlanta Forest:

According to ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Attorney Don Samuel, a noted expert in Georgia RICO law,

The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act was originally enacted by Congress to provide a comprehensive way to fight organized crime – in particular, the Mafia. In 1980, the Georgia Legislature passed its own version of the RICO Act. Rarely has a statute that was enacted with laudable purposes been so misused and abused by prosecutors. In Georgia, if two adolescents burglarize an abandoned building, they are subject to a RICO prosecution if a prosecutor chooses to ignore the original intent of the legislature. If a man engages in illegal gambling and gives the winnings to his wife, if the wife spends the money, she can be prosecuted for violating RICO even if she was not engaged in any illegal activity and uses the money to build an orphanage.

The notion that RICO would be invoked to punish protestors engaged in a widely-supported challenge to a government decision is a giant leap in the wrong direction. Threatening peaceful protestors with a seizure of their money and a twenty-year prison sentence not only mocks the purpose of the statute, it represents an assault on the most important and cherished rights of all American citizens: the right to protest, the right to seek redress of grievances, the right to enlist friends, colleagues, and the community to change government policy because the citizens want change. If the government of a state or county or municipality makes a decision, the citizens of that jurisdiction are not obligated to quietly obey.

The citizens are entitled to object, to protest, to challenge the wisdom and legitimacy of the decision. Threatening citizens with prosecution for doing so is anathema to the United States Constitution and violates the prosecutors’ oath of office. Threatening protestors (even if they trespass or engage in civil disobedience) by labeling them “racketeers” and “terrorists” is the behavior of a prosecutor in desperate need of finding another job.


The NPR article also says that the construction of “Cop City” is supported by the Atlanta Police Foundation formed after September 11, 2001, and its leader makes more money than the mayor or police chief of Atlanta.

The facility, if completed, will cost an estimated 90 million dollars.

Meanwhile, over 10,000 people in Atlanta are unhoused.

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